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UCA Supports New CMMI Payment Model for Emergency Ambulance Services

Program adds additional destination sites to connect patients with most appropriate level of care

Author: Suzanne Flynn/Friday, February 15, 2019/Categories: Industry News



Contact: Mary Velan
L.C. Williams & Associates


WARRENVILLE, Ill., Feb. 15, 2019 – The Urgent Care Association (UCA) applauds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) on the five-year program to create a new set of incentives for emergency transport and care that was announced yesterday. The Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) program will pay participating ambulance providers for transporting patients to alternative destination sites – such as urgent care centers – rather than hospital emergency departments when emergency services are not required.

“Historically, urgent care centers have provided patients with an alternative to emergency departments by offering on-demand services for non-emergency conditions,” said Laurel Stoimenoff, PT, CHC, CEO of UCA. “We commend CMS/CMMI on its new ET3 program that will expand EMS transport options to include additional facilities such as urgent care centers, and we look forward to collaborating with industry leaders to further strengthen the delivery of value-based care to patients nationwide.”

In addition to alternative transport locations, the ET3 program will also pay qualified healthcare providers to deliver treatment in place either on-the-scene or through telehealth platforms. The goal of the ET3 program is to ensure patients are receiving the level of care that best suits their specific needs, which improves efficiency and lowers overall costs.

“Urgent care continues to offer a solution for reducing overall medical costs while improving the patient experience,” said Dr. Sean McNeeley, UCA President and medical director at University Hospital Urgent Care in Cleveland. “The availability of urgent care centers to handle immediate but non-life-threatening situations saves emergency rooms money and resources that can be better spent on true emergency situations, while providing non-emergent care for patients and payers at a fraction of the cost.”

According to the UCA 2018 Benchmarking Report, 98 percent of patients presenting at urgent care centers are in the appropriate care setting, with only 2 percent needing emergency department diversion. Currently, Medicare only offers payment for patient transport to emergency, skilled nursing facilities or dialysis centers.

“Patients may call for EMS services simply because they have no other options for seeking same-day care but their illness or injury are well within the scope of care of an urgent care center,” said Dr. McNeeley. “With laboratory and radiology services onsite, urgent care centers provide a wide range of treatments for non-emergency, non-life threatening situations. Many offer healthcare services such as physical therapy, occupational medicine, in-house pharmaceutical dispensing and concussion screening – making them ideal destinations for EMS transport of non-emergency patients.”

Adding roughly 500 new centers each year and seeing about 89 million patients annually, the urgent care industry continues to grow and meet patient preference for on-demand access to affordable and convenient care. UCA benchmarking finds as of November 2018, the total number of urgent care centers in the U.S. reached 8,774, up eight percent from 8,125 in 2017.

“With locations readily available across the country, urgent care centers play a vital role in the continuum of care, bridging the gap between emergency departments and primary care offices,” said Stoimenoff. “Urgent care’s potential to support population health is largely untapped, but we see this as a very favorable step in the right direction and welcome the dialogue with EMS and other stakeholder organizations.”

Based on state-level legislation being followed by UCA, the association remains hopeful that these innovative options will soon be extended to not only Medicare beneficiaries, but also Medicaid and the commercially insured.  

More information about the UCA can be found at http://www.gateway2better.org.


About the Urgent Care Association

The Urgent Care Association (UCA) is a membership association of leaders, providers and suppliers in the field of on-demand, consumer-focused healthcare. UCA advances the industry and supports member success through advocacy, research, education, collaboration and high standards of care. The association maintains an active online presence and member community for daily exchange of best practices. For more information visit www.gateway2better.org.

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